The Vine and the Branches - John 15:1-16

Expositions by H. A. Wilson

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


Memory Verse — John 15:5

In order to live a happy and fruitful Christian life the believer needs to understand the close and vital relationship which exists between his soul and the Lord Jesus Christ. Before we trusted Him we we're outcasts and strangers but when we believed in Him a miracle was performed. Then we received His life and were born again, children of God. Then His righteousness was imputed to us and His death on the Cross was counted the judgment for our sins. At that time we were given a perfect standing before God and received the guarantee that we should never perish, having passed from death unto life. But the most wonderful thing which took place then was that we became organically a part of the Lord Jesus. We became members of His body. This is the plain teaching of the Word. The Body of Christ i-s composed of all believers in Him. He is the Head and i we are the members. And as the members of our physical bodies are for service, doing the bidding of the head, so also is the Body of Christ. We have been saved for service and we should serve at His direction. That is the purpose of our union with Him. This wonderful truth of the vital union between Christ and His Body, with what it involves, is set forth clearly in the parable of the Vine and the Branches. Jno. 5:24; Rom. 12:5; I Cor. 12:12-27.


John 15:1-5

As has already been stated, the union between Christ and the believer is a vital union. The branch draws its life from the vine. It could not exist apart from the vine. And if anything interferes with the flow of sap from the vine to the branch the branch languishes and becomes unfruitful. So it is with the Christian. Me has been made one with Christ. In Him he has life. In order for his life to be fruitful and full of blessing both to himself and others, he must maintain close communion with his Lord. John 5:24; Col. 3:3; I Cor. 1:30.

The relation between the line and the I brandies is complementary. A branch has no life in itself but partakes of the life of the vine. And the life of the vine finds its expression in the branch. The vine itself is rough and ungainly in appearance to the one who passes by though the branch is verdant and beautiful to look upon. Very few stop to look at the trunk of the vine to find whether it is healthy or not but they look at the branches and by them judge the condition of the vine. So it is with the relation between Jesus and the believer. The world can see no beauty in Him that it should desire Him. Indeed, it hardly stops to think about Him. But the believer is ever before the scrutiny of the world. As the believer's life is poor and weak and miserable the world judges Christ a failure. But as the life is beautiful and kind and loving many are blessed and caused to wonder what the secret of that life is. Thus they are drawn to Jesus. The believer has no life in himself, and must depend upon Jesus for life. But Jesus seeks to express. Himself through the life of the believer in such rich blessing that men may through that life be drawn to Him. II Cor. 3:3; Matt. 5:14-16; II Cor. 4:18-20.


John 15:2-3

For this purpose He trains the believer as the husbandman trains the vine. The believer who yields to Him in the slightest degree becomes the object of most tender care. "Every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." So God watches over the life of the Christian. As we yield to Him He cuts off a disagreeable habit or some trait of disposition which hinders us from being fruitful for Him. Perhaps He restrains us from some pet ambition and inclines us through testing into a place which we would not have chosen for ourselves in order that we may be developed to the best advantage. He directs the details of our lives so that they may work together in the best way to make us fruitful for Him. Heb. 12:5-11; Rom. 8:28.

But some believers will not respond to His care and must he taken away. "Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away." He will prune the branch very gently; He will train and care for it very carefully, seeking in every way possible to bring the branch to produce fruit, but if it does not, then He must take it away. It is hindering the purpose for which the vine exists. So God carefully and tenderly deals with all His children. He seeks to make their lives fruitful. He seeks to mold them as they should be, but when He finds that they will not respond to His treatment He takes them away. This does not mean that they lose their salvation. He has said, "Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out." (Jno. 6:37.) No, the Christian will never be lost even though He fails to bear fruit but the doctrine of chastening is very clearly taught here. Many times when God finds that He cannot make a life what He would have it to be He will take such a Christian from the earth in order that the cause of Christ may not be hindered, but He takes such an one home to Himself. The soul is saved though the life has been unfruitful. The limit of God's chastening in this life is physical death and in the life to come the loss of rewards. The believer can never be lost. I Cor. 11:30-32; II Cor. 12:20-21.


John 15:4-5, 7

The sole purpose of the vine's existence is to bear fruit. In this fact we learn a little of God's desire for His children. He has saved us truly but what He has done for us He wants to do for others who have not even heard the name of Jesus. And He wants to do this through us. God saves believers in order that they may serve Him. He desires fruit from our lives. And surely He has a right to expect it. He has purchased us at the cost of infinite suffering. By purchase right we belong to Him. We were not united with Jesus without suffering on His part. As the vine must be wounded in order that the branch may be grafted in so the heart of Jesus was pierced in order that we might become one with Him. When He has been willing to suffer so for us surely we should be willing to be fruitful in His service. We should be willing for Him so to pour His life through us that it will be manifested in the salvation of the lost. Rom. 12:1-2; I Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 2:8-10.

In order for us to be fruitful he must abide in Him. The fruit is the overflow of the life of the vine. Only a branch which is receiving abundance of life from the vine can bear fruit. Anything which hinders the flow of the life hinders fruit-bearing. That is one reason why the husbandman takes away the unfruitful branches. They are sapping the life which is needed for fruit-bearing. They are robbing the fruitful branches of the strength which they need. And many times they are shutting out the pure air and sunlight from getting to the fruitful branches. So Christians who are not bearing fruit for the Master take the time and energy of those who are. To such an extent is this true that they are hindered from winning the lost by the necessity of ministering to weak and backsliding Christians. And the cold and worldly lives many times become a hindrance to spiritual Christians causing them to lose the close touch with Christ which they should have. Only as we keep close to Him and permit Him to manifest Himself through us in an unhindered way can we bear fruit to His glory. Jno. 7:37-39; Rom. 6:13; Eph. 1:12.


John 15:6

We must distinguish between unfruitful believers and unbelievers. God chastens unfruitful believers but they are saved. Unbelievers come under His judgment. They are lost. This is the picture presented in the words, "If a man abide not in me he is cast forth as a branch and is withered and men gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned." (Vs. 6.) The word "branch" in this chapter is a word which means "a shoot broken off to be grafted in." (Lidell & Scott.) The branches are the grafts which have united with the vine. They have laid hold on the life of the vine and have grown into it and have become part of it. But some grafts never "take." The vine in wounded for them. They are placed in a position where they can draw on the life of the vine but they fail to do this. The life of the vine does not enter into them. They do not unite with it. They are no part of the vine. So Jesus tasted death for every man. He was wounded for the unbeliever as well as for the believer and He has made it possible for all to lay hold on His life through believing in Him. If one believes in Him he is united with Him and becomes part of Him. But if one will not believe in Him he does not share His life. He is a graft which did not unite. He is withered and dead and must be burned. So though the Father will take away the unfruitful branches they have become one vvith Jesus. They have shared in His life and are saved. But the souls who do not believe in Jesus are dead and condemned before God. John 3:18; John 3:36; I John 5:10-12.


John 15:9-16

The balance of this lesson goes into more detail concerning the fruitful believers and their relations with Christ. It simply bears out the teaching of the figure and has to do with fellowship, not with salvation. This fellowship of believers is conditioned on yielding to Him and obedience to His will. (Vss. 9-10.) It results in the believer having fulness of joy. (Vs. II.) It is manifested by love toward fellow believers (Vs. 13), and it is accompanied by fresh understanding of the things of God. (Vss. 13-15.)